Freddie Awards 2015 Delta Air Lines
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

No Freddie Award for Delta SkyMiles? Not a Problem

“I ’m curious as to what delta execs thoughts were about not being nominated”, wondered a person named Christine in the Comments section of this article written by René de Lambert at Delta Points where he explains why Delta Air Lines did not win any awards at the 2015 Freddie Awards at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. “You posted that you thought it would be fun to see their reactions to not winning anything but to not even be nominated, at some level, had to have hurt. Sounds like they acted as if nothing was wrong and were gracious hosts regardless. Good for them on the graciousness, now let’s see if anything changes.”

The employees from Delta Air Lines were indeed gracious; but I was told by no fewer than two of them prior to the start of the awards ceremony that if Delta Air Lines did win an award that they were not doing their job correctly.

Think about that statement for a moment: if Delta Air Lines did win an award at the 2015 Freddie Awards, then they were not doing their job correctly. One of those times that that was stated to me was after I wished them luck at the Freddie Awards.

Consider also that the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program of United Airlines not only did not win any Freddie Awards or even be mentioned as a runner-up; but I did not even see them represented at the award ceremony in person.

The AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program of American Airlines, on the other hand, won as Program of the Year in the Americas region.

Is there a trend here? Earning miles on both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are now based on revenue; while earning miles on American Airlines is still based on distance…

…but Delta Air Lines has also been posting record profits.

Does this mean that the frequent flier is no longer important to Delta Air Lines?

I would say not necessarily. Rather, it is the frequent business traveler — one who has access to a corporate account — which is of interest to Delta Air Lines. That traveler is not looking to do “mileage runs” or travel on “mistake fares.” A different ticket is $50.00 extra for a more convenient schedule? Not a problem. Need a ticket at the last minute and must pay a walk-up fare? Bring it on — and keep bringing it on.

The primary purpose of the Freddie Awards is to highlight the best of what frequent travel loyalty programs have to offer. It is not necessarily about customer service or product. It is typically about miles and points…

…and Delta Air Lines has its eyes set on other types of awards. If you visit the corporate headquarters of Delta Air Lines, you will see the primary objectives of different departments listed on posters on the walls. One of them is to rank number one in the J.D. Power Airline Satisfaction Ratings, of which the 2015 rankings should be released within the next couple of months. Delta Air Lines ranked number two overall in 2014 — bested only by Alaska Airlines, which was never even mentioned at the Freddie Awards.

This is not just about airlines: for all intents and purposes, the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program did not even exist at the Freddie Awards in 2015; and yet it tied with Delta Privilege for the top ranking in the 2015 Hotel Guest Rewards/Loyalty Program Ratings of J.D. Power and Associates.

Again — is this a trend; or merely a coincidence?

Some people might argue that the Freddie Awards may be becoming more irrelevant in the world of commercial aviation where airlines have shifted their focus from the dependency of using their frequent flier loyalty programs to entice and attract customers — especially when they were bleeding billions of dollars in cash every year — to focusing more on the service and product offered to customers wherever and whenever possible…

…but in order to get away with actions once considered egregious and “blasphemous” — such as charging ancillary fees and dismantling some of the more popular aspects of their frequent flier loyalty programs — the airlines must offer its customers a good product and good service on a consistent basis.

Based on my experiences, I personally cannot remember the last time anyone at Delta Air Lines treated me poorly. Despite me not being one of their best customers, I am always thanked for my business. They usually accommodate my requests; and typically with a smile. Their on-time performance has been impressive enough that Delta Air Lines calls itself an “on-time machine” on billboards in the Atlanta area. Delta Air Lines conveniently serves many destinations multiple times per day.

I can go on pertaining to lauding Delta Air Lines — but I think you get my point.

Employees will be the first to tell you that Delta Air Lines could stand to improve further, as I had been told. There are supposedly some interesting innovations in the works for improving Delta Sky Clubs, for example; and if I have definitive details, I intend to impart them to you…

…but the improvements pertain more to service and product and not so much to the frequent flier — at least, not like ten years ago, for example.

The SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program of Delta Air Lines did not win a single Freddie Award in 2015 — it was never even mentioned as a runner-up in any category — and guess what? Employees are just fine with that. That is not to say that they will not try to win at least one in the future — but let’s face it: what really matters are such financial “awards” as revenue, cash flow and profit…

…and you can take that to the bank. Delta Air Lines certainly is doing so; and as much as I mourn the former iterations of its frequent flier loyalty program, I congratulate Delta Air Lines on its financial success — especially considering that it was only eight years and one day ago that the airline formally emerged from bankruptcy protection.

Well done, Delta Air Lines. Well done.

Karen Zachary — who is the managing director, SkyMiles global program management — welcomes attendees to the 2015 Freddie Awards at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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